Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo - Marketing a Holiday

Certain holidays call for certain types of products because of many years of tradition. Christmas time - toys, Thanksgiving - turkeys. But have people created these standards for the holidays or have marketers? I think it's a combination, key point being that marketers will latch onto any possibility of a tradition and run away with it. Is that ethical? In some instances, maybe not so much. Is it capitalism at its best? Pretty much.

Most people with a functioning brain can see through marketing ploys. Personally, I try to avoid them. Call me cheap, but why should I pay $50 for some roses on February 14th when they cost $10 the rest of the year? Notice I prefaced with "Call me cheap," because that's what 9 out of 10 people would think about that comment. The demand that exists for roses on Valentine's Day severely outweighs the fact that there's a markup on them - that's how businesses get away with it.

As a beer drinker, there are a handful of holidays in which beer is emphasized. I buy beer year round regardless of a holiday so the marketing surrounding these holidays affects other people more [Yes, I bought a case of Guinness and Harp a week before St. Pat's this year, but I could just as easily do that a week after St. Pat's too...important thing is there was no markup].

You are probably aware that today is Cinco de Mayo...what is your immediate thought? Mexican beer and salsa & chips? I think most people would jump at consuming those types of products without even knowing what Cinco de Mayo is (I admit I looked it up myself). It "celebrates" the victory by Mexican forces over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. It is not Mexico's Independence Day. As far as celebration in Mexico goes, it's mostly limited to the region of Puebla. Here, I think, is the extreme case of how marketing has created a holiday in the U.S. by heavily advertising for Corona, tequila, and chips & salsa. Budweiser released "Bud Lime," somewhat recently, in response to what Miller did with "Miller Chill." I don't think the timing of this release was unintentional.

Listening to the radio every morning (94.1 WYSP Kid Chris show) has been where it's hit me the most. Every morning for the last couple of weeks there has been a radio ad for Corona and one for Jose Cuervo (sometimes for Dos Equis). The Cuervo ad exemplifies my point the best: it's a white guy with a horrible Spanish accent hyping up Cuervo margaritas, "the most popular cocktail in the world." There's no humor in the horrible Spanish's as if they are trying to pass it off as genuine.

I'm all for celebrating holidays. I'll sometimes give into tradition even if I think it's artificial by buying whatever is advertised, as long as the prices are not hiked up. But I think you should try to know what the holiday is about first. Personally, I would even consider picking up a 6-pack of Dos Equis after work...but PA beverage laws prohibit me from doing so without overpaying or buying an entire case. But that's another blog post altogether.

P.S. Alfredo, who I think is Mexican, was just wished a happy Cinco de Mayo by Dave. His response: hesitation and "oh yea! that's today"

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